Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Problem with Judges

I share Hube's annoyance with the latest decisions to extend the Geneva Conventions to the Gitmo detainees.

For those not in the know, the Geneva Conventions clearly defines who they apply to and there are two groups: non-combatants and prisoners of war. Non-combatants are innocent civilians and soldiers who have surrendered. Prisoners of war is a broad category that includes various types of combatants with the following restrictions: they must carry their arms openly, be easily discerned from the general populace, follow the laws of war. If any of those are violated, then the Conventions don't apply.

Now the detainees generally don't carry their arms openly, conceal themselves within the general populace, and disregard the laws of war. So the conventions didn't apply until the Supreme Court decided that now they do.

I predict that this is going to have the opposite effect people want. Our soldiers are, by and large, going to simply take fewer prisoners. Despite what some people may think, it is actually much easier to kill someone than to take them prisoner. We have to go out of our way to do it. But now prisoners are no longer useful intelligence sources and are often going to be set free to return to the fight against US forces. Why risk it?

There is a video circulating on the internet of a UAV crew following a group militants who had just fired off a volley improvised mortars from a parking lot at a US military base. The aircrew asks if they can just kill them with ordnance on the UAV. They are told "no" because "live terrorists are more useful to us than dead terrorists." So they follow the terrorists' car for fifteen minutes while ground forces maneuver to cut them off and surround them with overwhelming force in order to take them prisoner. I predict commanders will be saying "yes" to requests to dust terrorists much more in the near future.

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